Pictures from the Inside: Seeing Fascination Everywhere, with Chantal Zakari & Nigel Poor


Most people’s perception of prison life revolves around sensationalized news stories and Hollywood movies depicting drab, inhospitable environments far outside our reach.

In today’s show, we’re challenging that view in a chat with two educators who use photography as a framework for teaching visual literacy and the art of storytelling to incarcerated men.

Pictures from the Outside, book cover design
For AI, Court House
For CM, back entrance of Court House
For CV, proof sheet of book spread
For JS, gatefold spread from Pictures from the Outside
Chantal Zakari portrait
For JS, half of gatefold spread as seen in book
For SM, High School
Gatefold spread as seen in book
For JP, High School
For KW, Playground
For NM, Pizza Garden
`For NM, night sky
Pictures from the Outside, front cover design
Pictures from the Outside, back cover design
Chantal Zakari

Cameras, computers, and sometimes even books, are prohibited from classrooms inside lock up, which forced our guests to come up with creative workarounds, using the generosity of the photographic medium as a path to engage in dialog with their students.

As one of our guests, Nigel Poor, puts it: “With a little bit of ingenuity, there's always a work around to come out with something really beautiful and emotional. And that's one of the pleasures of working in a prison, is that you've got to really rely on your imagination and your ability to hit a road bump and find a way around it.”

Suicide Alley, 4/4/65, from archive of historic negatives created and…
William Eggleston photo (side A) mapped by Marvin, 2012
William Eggleston photo (side B) mapped by Marvin, 2012
Stephen Shore photo (side A) mapped by John, 2012
Stephen Shore photo (side B) mapped by John, 2012
Nigel recording in studio at San Quentin State Prison
Nigel Poor & Earlonne Woods doing yard talk interviews for the Ear…
Front & back cover of The San Quentin Project, Aperture, 2021
San Quentin Archive image: Stabbing in the Gym by Rubin Ramirez, 2013
San Quentin Archive image, Mother’s Day 5/9/76 by Sha Wallace Stepter,…
Installation view of The San Quentin Project at the Berkeley Museum, of…
Installing show, The San Quentin Project at Milwaukee Museum of Art,…
Nigel Poor

Don’t miss this inspiring discussion with two artists and educators who successfully adapted their teaching to the prison workaround, then connected with students on a human level, ultimately triggering their capability to “see fascination everywhere.”

Guests: Chantal Zakari & Nigel Poor

Top shot courtesy of Nigel Poor and the San Quentin State Prison Museum, with thanks to former Warden Ron Davis and retired Lieutenant Sam Robinson

Sponsored by

Episode Timeline:

  • 4:10: Chantal’s involvement with the Tufts University Prison Initiative. (TUPIT).
  • 9:20: Nigel’s backstory in working with the Prison University Project, now Mount Tamalpais College.
  • 13:36: Classroom dynamics as a privileged female teaching only adult male inmates.
  • 24:30: Importance of the prison workaround, and teaching photography in prison using words and memories.
  • 31:10: Chantal’s collaboration with inmates to create the book Pictures from the Outside.
  • 42:20: The evolution of self-publishing due to advancing technologies.
  • 44:30: Episode Break
  • 45:33: Getting clearance for course materials and the value of photos as a bridge to connecting.
  • 50:54: Nigel’s classroom assignments using image mapping of classic photographs.
  • 56:39: The discovery of historic 4x5 negatives from San Quentin, and mapping these images with inmates.
  • 1:01:48: The San Quentin Media Lab and launch of the Ear Hustle Podcast.
  • 1:11:49: What inmates have gained from their studies they can use in the outside world.

Guest Bios:

Chantal Zakari is a Boston-area interdisciplinary artist, designer, and a Professor of the Practice at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. Her studio practice combines varied research and artistic strategies borrowed from photography, documentary, performance, storytelling, installation, graphic design, and social interventions.

Together with her partner Mike Mandel, she has published individual and collaborative works under the imprint Eighteen Publications. Zakari teaches a college course as part of the Tufts University Prison Initiative, which has resulted in the book Pictures from the Outside, as a collaboration with the incarcerated students.

Nigel Poor is an artist and podcast host whose work explores the ways people leave behind evidence of their existence. In 2011, Nigel got involved with San Quentin State Prison as a volunteer teacher for Mount Tamalpais College (formerly the Prison University Project).

In 2017, she co-founded the prison-based podcast Ear Hustle, which reaches millions of listeners and has earned a Peabody Prize and a Pulitzer Prize nomination, among many other awards. Her work as a visual artist has been exhibited nationally and internationally and can be found in numerous museum collections. Nigel is a professor of photography at California State University, Sacramento. She’s the author of The San Quentin Project, published by Aperture and co-author of This Is Ear Hustle: Unflinching Stories of Everyday Prison Life, from Crown Publishing Group.

Stay Connected:

Chantal Zakari Website:

Chantal Zakari Instagram:

Chantal Zakari’s Pictures from the Outside book:

Tufts University Prison Initiative (TUPIT):

Nigel Poor Website:

Nigel Poor Instagram:

Nigel Poor’s San Quentin Prison Project:

Nigel Poor’s San Quentin Prison Project book:

Ear Hustle Podcast website:

This is Ear Hustle book:

Mount Tamalpais College:

Pelican Waterproof Cases:

Host: Allan Weitz

Senior Creative Producer: Jill Waterman

Senior Producer: Mike Weinstein

Executive Producer: Shawn C Steiner